When I was in middle school, I sang Kelly Clarkson’s song “Breakaway” in one of my first talent shows. Living in my tiny hometown, where the total number of students in the high school is around 400, the opening lyric “Grew up in a small town” felt pretty accurate. Although I was in middle school, I thought I knew so much and was so deep, as many middle school students do, the song, all about being able to experience more than the little place you know so well, still means a great deal to me.
As Justin Herring of Sidewinder.fm said in his article, “Rise Above: The Challenges Of Today's Independent Musician,” on Hyperbot.com, “It’s hard to say what steps a musician today should take in order to reach their desired level of success.”
In a small town, it’s much more difficult to be noticed as an artist. While aspiring artists in Los Angeles and New York may have a tough time making it big, they have a larger group of people to compete with and a larger audience. They may attract the attention of a niche group. Small towns have much smaller niche groups, which means certain individuals get the majority of the attention of their student body audience. There generally aren’t big bosses or agents who can help bring attention or success to an artist in a small town. And when you don’t have a voice that’s powerful in the same way as Beyoncé’s or belt songs in the same way as many pop stars, it may feel like you aren’t as talented as them.
My family, friends and other acquaintances have always been supportive of my musical endeavors, like my YouTube channel smiles fromca. They give me compliments, tell their friends and family about things that I do and share or like my videos on social media like YouTube. It’s wonderful. However, it’s often more difficult than some individuals make it look to gain subscribers on a YouTube channel. And it’s especially difficult to be patient enough to make great quality videos that will get attention — video and filmmaking are not nearly as easy as they may seem.
During high school, some of my friends were taking lessons with a voice teacher, Eva Kendrick. I had wanted to do voice lessons for some time and decided I would start. Eva helped me in many ways; she told me what my vocal range is and that I'm a soprano. She helped me to work on my soprano range, as well as to expand my vocal range overall. I performed in more shows, which she arranged, and for different audiences. I did my first vocal competition with her help. She gave me the tools and encouragement to be more confident in my vocal abilities. Although I didn’t gain thousands of subscribers due to Eva and voice lessons, I became a stronger and more assured performer.
I have loved and been inspired by Kelly Clarkson since I was in elementary school, singing along to “Breakaway” and “Since U Been Gone." Many of her songs are empowering, Taylor Weatherby of Entertainment Weekly writes, "And with empowering lyrics such as ‘Now I am invincible/No, I ain’t a scared little girl no more’ and ‘I have courage now, gonna shout it out,’ Clarkson declares that her ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ spirit hasn’t changed.” Therefore, I was excited when I saw that Kelly Clarkson was having an Open Mic Night contest. AXS.com Contributor Chase Hunt said, “Having Open Mic Night will be a way for fans to get their voices heard and to share the stage with the three-time Grammy winner.”
For the contest, I created a video of me covering “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters, singing and playing guitar. I worked hard to make my cover different from the original song and to make the video good quality. I filmed the cover several times to get it right. I worried that someone who belts or sings like Ariana Grande would win. When I received the email from Kelly Clarkson’s tour telling me I was chosen, I basically just read “Congratulations Shannon!” before running to tell my mom.
I rehearsed outside in the beautiful, hot and sunny weather, soundchecked onstage and got to hear the band start up loudly behind me. I got to meet and chat with a woman who has inspired me since elementary school. I got to perform onstage in front of 17,000 to 19,000 people.
Anyone, anywhere, can achieve his or her aspirations; it just takes confidence, belief in oneself and hard work. If you are a small-town individual who dreams while gazing out the window, much like Kelly Clarkson sings about in “Breakaway,” believe that you have the ability to do amazing things.